Golf ball-sized hail and heavy rain batters Des Moines metro, causing damage, road closures

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Golf ball-sized hail and heavy rains fell throughout the Des Moines metro late Friday afternoon, causing metro residents and attendees of the Iowa State Fair to seek shelter indoors.

The severe thunderstorm was making its way through the area headed east, National Weather Service meteorologist Alexis Jimenez said. More thunderstorms were expected on and off through the night, Jimenez said.

Afternoon damage reports from the weather service showed broken windshields and car damage due to the large hail. Residents posted multiple photos on Twitter of the golf-ball sized hail, some of it measuring nearly three inches in diameter.

National Weather service issues thunderstorm, flash flood warnings

NWS issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Des Moines, West Des Moines and Ankeny Friday afternoon until 3:15 p.m., warning that the storm was likely to include hail. The NWS later extended the warning for Des Moines, Altoona and Pleasant Hill until 5:15 p.m. NWS issued a flash flood warning for the areas of Polk County, including Des Moines, West Des Moines and Urbandale, until 8 p.m.

Road closures, downed wires in Des Moines

Des Moines Police Department Spokesperson Sgt. Paul Parizek said there was damage throughout the city, causing significant road closures and obstacles such as downed wires. The department is also responding to reports of arcing power lines and working with the city's fire department on a water rescue of a stranded driver, according to its Twitter page. 

Power outages: Track power outages as severe weather hits Des Moines

The NWS was also expecting to see funnel clouds, which look like swirling clouds in the air, throughout the night, Jimenez said. Though it is unlikely, funnel clouds can turn into tornados, Jimenez said. Jimenez asked that residents reach out to the NWS if they see such clouds so they can be monitored.

To stay safe from the storm, Jimenez recommends residents seek shelter inside and continue to monitor weather patterns.

Cars totaled, leaking ceilings at West Des Moines' Valley High School

Royce Mahoney, a teacher at Valley High School in West Des Moines, said he watched his car get totaled by hail during Friday afternoon's thunderstorm.

He walked out in the hallway of Valley High School after hearing two large rumbling sounds, what he assumed at the time to be something large rolling down the hallway, he said.

"All the teachers were out in the hallway just watching their cars get destroyed," he said. "It was probably 20 minutes of hail. straight hail."

He said the hail started as pea-sized, then quickly grew to grape-sized and eventually worked its way up to golf ball-sized.

He said his car sustained sizable damage, including five different cracked spots on his windshield, a shattered portion of the roof rack, extensive damage to the hood, and damage on every panel of the car.

"It was like that for every car in the parking lot," he said.

After sharing the details of the damage with insurance, Mahoney said he concluded the car was totaled.

He said he observed trash cans lining the library and water leaking from the ceilings of the school, likely due to damage caused by the storm.

Power out for 1,400 MidAmerican customers Friday, most restored by evening

MidAmerican Energy Company reported Friday evening around 7 p.m. that more than 1,400 Des Moines customers were without power after the storm. By shortly before 8 p.m. power had been restored to all but a few hundred.

On Des Moines' Hubbell Avenue, near 33rd Street, crews were spotted removing a tree from a powerline.

Nearby, insurance broker Todd Adamson, whose office lost power shortly after 3 p.m., said he saw a tree catch fire near a transformer.

“We’re still cleaning up from the tornadoes in March, and then to get hit with more hail and wind …” he said. He said he was receiving client reports of damage from hail, tree limbs down and other storm issues.

Crews work on power lines on Hubbell Avenue in Des Moines on Aug. 19, 2022.
Crews work on power lines on Hubbell Avenue in Des Moines on Aug. 19, 2022.

Andrew Sabela and Karen Valdez, both 28, said the massive tree that caught fire had been on the property they are renting. Valdez was home when the tree fell and heard the crash.

She also said she saw it catch on fire. They said the tree didn't fall into the street nearby because it was stopped by a utility pole.

Their home was not damaged, although they said their power went out Friday afternoon.

A tree fell on to a utility poll after Des Moines storms on Aug 19, 2022
A tree fell on to a utility poll after Des Moines storms on Aug 19, 2022

Iowa State fairgoers seek shelter

Fairgoers at the Iowa State Fair, including former Vice President Mike Pence and current U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, were instructed by the Fair's groundswide public announcement system to seek shelter amid the storm.

No damage had been reported at the fair, said fair spokesperson Mindy Williamson. All rides and the Sky Glider, however, had been shut down due to the storm Friday afternoon, Williamson said.

A soggy grass parking area at the fair also meant some cars needed an assist.

"We are helping some cars out of the grass parking lot area. Gate 3 at East 36th is closed so cars can get to the harder surfaces and use the main gate (Gate 2) off University. That is the primary entrance and exit," she said.

Francesca Block is a breaking news reporter at the Des Moines Register. Reach her at FBlock@registermedia.com or on Twitter at @francescablock3.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Des Moines sees golf ball-sized hail, severe thunderstorms and rain